Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
– calls for her resignation as GECOM chair
Leader of the Opposition, Joseph Harmon, today accused the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Justice (Ret’d) Claudette Singh of being a part of a plot to dismantle the Elections Secretariat by discrediting key officials on the basis of trumped up charges.
“… [The] Chairman of the Elections Commission has not raised her voice in concern for the welfare of these officers who worked with her. The only conclusion that can be derived is that the Chairman is at worst complicit and at best a part of the PPP’s plot to dismantle the current GECOM. Madame Chairman you are leaving a tattered legacy and should resign before it gets worse,” the Opposition Leader said.
Harmon made the statement on Friday during a virtual press conference, even as the Deputy Chief Elections Officer (DCEO), Roxanne Myers was appearing before the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court charged with the two counts of Misconduct in Public Office, to which she was not required to plea.
Since the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) took Office on August 2, at least nine (9) GECOM officials, including the Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield, have been arrested, interrogated and in most cases charged based on allegations of fraud alleged to have been committed during the controversial March 2 General and Regional Elections.
“Since August 2nd 2020 we have seen the Guyana Police Force detaining and breaching the constitutional rights of a number of Guyanese and in particular several employees of GECOM on the basis of trumped up charges and baseless accusations and investigations. We have seen clear discriminatory practises in this regard with Afro-Guyanese being targeted and persecuted by the Guyana Police Force,” the Opposition Leader said.
He said the Opposition has recorded at least nine instances in which GECOM officials were not only detained on the basis of baseless allegations, but were held in custody beyond the constitutionally allowed 72 hours.
In addition to Lowenfield and Myers, the other GECOM officials include the Region Four Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo; Duarte Hetsberger; Michelle Miller, Enrique Livan, Shefern February, Carolyn Duncan and Denise Cummings. Former Health Minister and Chairman of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), Volda Lawrence was also arrested and charged as well as Carol Joseph – an agent of the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (AFC).
“Ms. Myers, on the advice of her attorney, invoked her constitutional right to silence and was incredulously charged for obstructing investigation…Ms. Myers became ill in police custody and was denied medical attention for a considerable period of time, only belatedly taken to the hospital after pleadings from her associates,” Harmon pointed out. On Friday, she was placed on $300,000 bail for the two charges brought against her.
Like Myers, Miller, who also suffers from pre-existing medical conditions, was also detained beyond 72 hours as was Livan. With the PPP/C at the helm, Guyana, Harmon said, is quickly degenerating into a lawless police state where persons can be charged without any basis whatsoever, their constitutional rights trampled upon and disregarded.
“What is even worse is that we have seen ministers of government injecting themselves and directing the police. At least two ministers, Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn and Minister Charles Ramson Jr have been reported to have been in contact, intimidating, threatening and coercing persons who have been detained. This is illegal and unconstitutional and calls into question the motive, opportunity and means of the Guyana Police Force in dismantling an agency that is protected by the Constitution,” the Opposition said.
The Crime Chief, Wendell Blanhum has reportedly written Chair of GECOM requesting certain documents from the Commission and though reports suggest that documents have been released to the police, Justice Singh, in a statement on Friday, said the Commission did not hand over confidential information.
“These are clear instances of political persecution and victimization of the Afro-Guyanese staff members of GECOM which constitute an attempt to dismantle GECOM and render it ineffective from being able to hold credible elections. It is an assault on democracy and can cause irreparable damage to the fundamental basis of our country,” the Opposition Leader iterated.
He pointed out that while a certain group of GECOM staff is being targeted, none of the Presiding Officers and other GECOM officers responsible for the missing poll books, ballot papers and other polling documents have been questioned by the police. “This is not an investigation, it is a campaign of intimidation, bullyism and psychological warfare by the Police and the PPP,” he posited.
He added: “No other person working in the Commission of any other ethnicity has been treated this way. In addition to this unconstitutional bullyism is the more insidious campaign by the PPP to deprive black communities of economic power- take for example the money they take out of these poor communities by way of punitive bail.”
It was pointed out that Mingo was placed on $600,000 bail; the IT officer Enrique Livan was placed on $150,000; Assistant Registration Officer Duncan $100,000 bail; Sheffern February, $300,000; Carol Joseph, $100,000 bail; Volda Lawrence, $100,000 bail; Keith Lowenfield; $450,000 bail; and Duarte Hetsberger, $100,000 bail.
This represents a total of $1.8million in bail which has been removed from the black community, the Opposition Leader pointed out. He made it clear that the Opposition will continue to offer its support to those who have been wrongfully arrested and charged. The Opposition, he assured, will not sit idly by.